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Open your ears – How brands can make sure they’re heard in 2020

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It’s that time of year again when we start to cast off the shackles of what has been a rather turbulent year and look ahead at the beacon of hope that is the new year. In the first of our annual trend pieces for 2019, Michele Arnese, Global CEO and Founder of amp, explains how brands will be uses audio to make an impact in 2020.

Sound has the unique ability to break through clutter, evoke emotion and create unique human connections, making it an important asset for brands wanting to extend their reach.

Yet, despite studies showing 74% of young adults believe that they develop a better understanding of a brand‘s personality through music, the focus for marketers up until now has primarily been how to make an impact visually, with sound being used selectively. 

But with Gartner predicting that a third of web interactions will be screenless next year, sound is rapidly evolving from a ‘nice to have’, to a vital part of the communications toolkit, and the race is on for brands to ensure they make themselves heard in this new sonic world.

The quick pace of change means many brands are struggling to understand how to take advantage of what sound has to offer though. With that in mind, we’ve outlined the sonic trends we expect to see in 2020 and beyond. If applied right, they help brands to build stronger connections with consumers and drive engagement with their business. 

Dive into immersive audio  

Stationary surround sound might have been a big deal a few years back, but next year immersive audio is set to become an even greater part of the customer experience as new technology enters our homes. 

Already we’ve seen a number of 360° audio capable devices hit the market, including offerings from Amazon (the Echo Studio) and Sony, and soon we can expect 360° audio to be the norm on all devices and channels, from headphones, gaming consoles and smart speakers to laptops.

If brands can leverage these devices effectively, there will be a significant opportunity to capitalise on the emotive power of sonic, to drive brand engagement. The key is to develop experiences that are relevant to your target audience, make the best use of the technology and feature your brand in a recognizable, consistent audible form.

From wearables to hearables 

According to IDC, hearables are the fastest growing wearable category, capturing 50% of the overall wearables market in the first quarter of 2019. In 2020, this is only set to grow, as intelligent headphones and earpieces become ever-more sophisticated, while Amazon has already pushed the envelope around how hearable tech can be further interpreted by launching voice-assisted jewellery, like Echo Glasses and the Echo Ring. 

Hearables represent a huge opportunity for brands to incorporate audio into their story by encouraging them to push the boundaries of creativity when it comes to representing their identities through sound. The fact that these devices can be used “on the go” yields a lot of opportunities for brands to consider new forms of audible customer experiences leveraging sound, voice and data.

Listen to Generation Voice 

It might seem shocking that Generation Z struggle to read analogue clocks, but the growing dependence on voice assistants (VA) in the home, means many children today have never had to.

Gen Z, and their successors Generation Alpha are used to being able to access content or information simply by asking, and their dependence on VA is only going to become more acute as it comes to control everything from the way we purchase goods, to how we verify our identities. 

So, if the generation of tomorrow are voice-native, brands that don’t speak their language will quickly lose their interest. One of the biggest issues for brands currently is how they can establish themselves in the absence of channels where visual communication has its limits. Salesforce data shows just a third of brands are using voice to sell products at the moment, so if brands want to be frontrunners among Gen Voice then they need to move into the market rapidly.

The limits are endless

Emerging or growing audible technologies and the change in consumer behaviour require a new approach for brands when it comes to their sound and voice strategies.

A jingle or a sonic logo can be a good way of helping audiences identify brands on a TV or radio ad, but it’s not flexible enough to replicate across the myriad of current and emerging customer touchpoints.  

To make their ‘sound’ truly effective and memorable across all modern touchpoints, a brand needs to work with experts to create an authentic and ownable sound DNA that is representative of the brands' values and positioning and relatable to consumers.  

If this holistic sonic identity is used across all audible touchpoints, it has the power to enhance existing communication but more importantly can ready brands for engaging with customers in channels that are primarily or solely dependent on audible interactions.

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Michele Arnese, Global CEO and Founder, amp

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